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'Race' records of the 1920's revealed only too obviously that the chastity projected by spirituals or groups like the Fisk Jubilee Singers did not truly reflect black social values, any more than Pat Boone represents the typical American male - Steve Calt's notes, Bo Carter, Banana In Your Fruit Basket, Yazoo

Author Topic: Humor in country blues  (Read 4181 times)

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mississippijohnhurt1928

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Re: Humor in country blues
« Reply #15 on: November 09, 2007, 03:28:04 AM »
I also chuckle everytime I hear Lonnie Johnsons "Bed bug Blues" when he talks about how the mama bed bugs is praying to god for something more to eat!!  hahaha

Cheers,

Blue

Ah yes, beg bugs "big as a jackass" said Lonnie.


I'm pretty sure this tune is intended to be humorous; Jim Jackson's "I Heard The Voice Of A Porkchop".

mississippijohnhurt1928

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Re: Humor in country blues
« Reply #16 on: November 09, 2007, 03:35:26 AM »
And I know this one is not really intended to be humorous, but in the Lonnie Johnson Victoria Spivey duet "Toothache Blues" Lonnie tells Victoria:

"That's nothin' but cocaine & liquor, to ease the pain." :P

Offline unezrider

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Re: Humor in country blues
« Reply #17 on: November 10, 2007, 11:17:43 AM »
big bill broonzy's 'pussy cat blues'   ;D meeoow!!!
« Last Edit: November 10, 2007, 11:18:49 AM by unezrider »
"Be good, & you will be lonesome." -Mark Twain

Cooljack

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Re: Humor in country blues
« Reply #18 on: November 11, 2007, 08:12:04 AM »
anything affiliated with Bo Carter  ;)

Offline MTJ3

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Re: Humor in country blues
« Reply #19 on: November 12, 2007, 11:29:25 AM »
This is (or should be?) a loaded question.  Is it what one finds humorous today or what was--a slippery slope this--evidently humorous to the artist and intended to be humorous to his or her audience?  I have never found, for example, "Diddy Wah Diddy" or most versions of the Dozens particularly humorous, but the artists and their audiences surely did, and I do find that interesting.  (This is also a doubly interesting question in that I would speculate that the question of what blues songs might give us a contrary feeling might not generate the same level of interest or enthusiasm.)  As some of these posts suggest, much of what we today will find humorous (and I am no exception) was addressed at length in Oliver's excellent "The Blue Blues" in his Screening The Blues (and there are probably lots of other snippets if not entire monographs on the subject, but that's the first thing that comes to mind). Under any interpretation, my "desert island" vote would be for Jesse James's "Sweet Patuni," for the overall hilarity made all the more brilliant by the extended use of what Johnm referred to as "rhymus interruptus."   

Offline dj

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Re: Humor in country blues
« Reply #20 on: November 12, 2007, 12:06:35 PM »
Quote
Is it what one finds humorous today or what was--a slippery slope this--evidently humorous to the artist and intended to be humorous to his or her audience?

That's a good point.  There's a lot of stuff that I think was funny in its day that's really not funny at all now.  "I whipped my woman with a single tree/You ought to hear her shouting 'Please don't murder me'" is for me a prime example of this.  Everywhere it's used, I get the feeling that it's a laugh line, but it's a subject that's just not funny any more.

On the other hand, I could be entirely wrong about the use of that verse.  It's possible that it wasn't meant to be funny but was instead a bit of macho posturing akin to a lot of what goes on in rap today.

It's also true that as I get older, I find more humor in blues lyrics.  When I was in my teens, I thought Robert Johnson was a deep mysterious guy who was haunted by devils at every turn.  Now I think he was often a pretty good comic.  So what the audience finds humorous changes over time even when the audience is one's self.
   
« Last Edit: November 17, 2007, 01:23:32 PM by dj »

Offline Johnm

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Re: Humor in country blues
« Reply #21 on: November 12, 2007, 05:22:48 PM »
I like the point you make, MTJ3, with regards to humor back then versus humor now.  Humor doesn't necessarily require that something be side-splitting, either.  One of my favorite humorous performers in the country Blues is Sylvester Weaver's playing partner, Walter Beasley.  It's not as though he was hilarious, but he projected a droll wit in his delivery of lyrics that really wears well.  I'm particularly fond of:

   Tadpole in the river, hatching underneath of a log
   He got too old to be a tadpole, and hatched into a natch' frog

All best,
Johnm
« Last Edit: August 31, 2008, 06:53:11 PM by Johnm »

Offline MTJ3

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Re: Humor in country blues
« Reply #22 on: November 16, 2007, 07:28:51 AM »
I didn't mean to get all heavy and serious and dampen enthusiasm for a topic that was plainly intended to be fun.  On the other end of the spectrum from the subtle forms of drollery to which Johnm refers is Lucille Bogan's unexpurgated version of "Shave 'Em Dry." If you haven't heard it, well, you pretty much have to listen to it yourself because the lyrics can't be reproduced here and the spirit can't be captured in print.   

Offline Rivers

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Re: Humor in country blues
« Reply #23 on: November 16, 2007, 04:50:12 PM »
I'm happy the thread has developed an analytical aspect. Often when I find something funny I ask myself why. Sad I know but then I'm again an analyst so it's understandable.

There are many adjectives you can stick in front of the word 'humor'. Droll, risque, crass, ironic, slapstick, subtle, spiteful, childish, clever, surreal, clownish, vaudevillian, mawkish, just plain dated and/or unfunny... the classifications are endless. The other element is the set-up and delivery, timing and juxtaposition.

Furry stands out for me partly due to the timeless nature of his stuff and the way he delivers it. I mean, "Don't you wish your mama had named you Furry Lewis?", or "I hate to see that rising sun go down" in St Louis Blues which I'm sure was intentional, he chuckles after he sings it and so do I. You had to be there...
« Last Edit: November 16, 2007, 04:51:30 PM by Rivers »

Offline Bricktown Bob

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Re: Humor in country blues
« Reply #24 on: November 17, 2007, 07:35:10 AM »
On the other hand, I could be entirely wrong about the use of that verse.  It's possible that it wasn't meant to be funny but was instead a bit of macho posturing akin to a lot of what goes on n rap today.

On the other other hand, macho posturing is itself often a comic stance, as in much of Muddy Waters, Bo Diddley, and Screamin' Jay Hawkins.  Don't know much about rap today, but it seems to me that a lot of it is so over the top that it just can't be taken seriously.

Offline Baird

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Re: Humor in country blues
« Reply #25 on: August 31, 2008, 04:51:09 PM »
i find myself laughing most listening to Blind Boy Fuller.

there is something about the way he dryly delivers lyrics like

"said when i'm on the wagon trying to sell a little coal,
you was in the streets hollerin who wants jelly roll.
now if i catch you doing what i caught you doing last night,
have you put back in jail"
 
from "put you back in the jail"


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